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What is DNA? What does it stand for?

DNA stands for DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (pronounced dee-oxy-rye-bow-nu-clee-ik acid). It is the genetic material of a cell. The chromosomes inside the nucleus (control centre) of the cell are made of DNA. Lots and lots of DNA. It is very fine and tightly coiled but there may be as much as a metre in a single cell. DNA is really a code. It is divided up into sections. These sections are genes, which carry all the instructions for making up our body. So there is a gene that tells the body to have brown hair and so on. Each gene is a code for a particular protein. Our bodies are made up of proteins. So the genes dictate how we are made and what our bodies look like.

DNA molecules are shaped in a double helix. They are two long strands coiled round each other. You inherit half your DNA from your mother and half from your father.

Diagram of a chromosome in a cell

You can find more information here about genes and DNA.

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Updated: 17 April 2013